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Archive Team: The Dogster/Catster Dog Pound

Dogster is a dog-themed social networking and forums-based website. Its sister site is Catster, a cat-oriented website with a similar format. Users of the site create a pet page which is a customizable web page for which they can give treats or purchase virtual items using what are called zealies. This virtual currency can be given to the users after engaging in some of the website activities, using PayPal or by purchasing a Plus subscription. Dogster won the 2005 Webby category for best community site. It was acquired by SAY Media in 2011. On January 16, 2014, SAY Media declared that all the social networking and forums would be removed from Dogster and Catster.

It is with a heavy heart that we announce that we will be closing the Community areas of Dogster and Catster in March.

John Vars | Jan 16th 2014

Dear Dogsters,

Today we are announcing some changes at Dogster and Catster. While the Dogster and Catster sites will continue to exist as daily magazines that serve the worldwide community of dog and cat families, it is with a heavy heart that we announce that we will be closing the Community areas of the sites effective March 3. This means that members of the Dogster Community will no longer be able to see Pet Profiles, Forums, Groups, Answers, Local Listings, Photo Galleries, Games, Quizzes, Adoption, Dog of the Day, Diary Central, the Gift store, and the Community homepage past that date.

I am no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of Dogster and Catster, but I am writing this to you as one of the founders, as one of the developers who built the features of the sites, as the first community manager, and as a member (Trouble, Porter). Ten years of my life have been about Dogster and Catster and I’ve invested a lot of time, money, sweat and tears. It’s been a great ride and I have no regrets. But all good things must come to an end.

We originally created Dogster because there was no place on the internet to share the joy of having a dog or a cat member of the family. There was no place to share tips on taking care of the furry ones. There was no place on the internet to support each other in times of turmoil, sickness and journeys to the rainbow bridge. We, and I truly mean “we” in the community sense, created this space. We’ve made great friends, told inspiring stories, helped many pets find their furever homes. It was a great success and something I will remember and take pride in for the rest of my life.

That said, 10 years on the Internet is forever. There have been massive changes in the industry -- Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist when we started Dogster and Catster. Finding advertisers and developing those relationships was simpler and revenues were easier to come by in the early days. The backend technologies that power websites have been revolutionized three times over since then. It’s amazing to me that the sites we developed in 2004 and 2005 have lasted this long. But, as every regular user knows, the community areas aren’t working like they used to. Features are broken. Spammers are relentlessly invading our forums. The dog house and cat tree are starting to crumble.

SAY Media is a great company. Their hearts are in the right spot. There was a lot of pressure from financial and strategic points of view to close down the community areas of the sites three years ago. But since the sites were holding up and people loved them, they continued to keep these areas up even though it was at a cost.

At the end of the day, our parent company is all about creating great editorial brands. As the community features on Dogster and Catster degrade, as users become unsatisfied, it amplifies the fact that the Dogster and Catster community sites are not aligned with Say’s mission. It seems unwise to continue to operate them at a loss while aggravating users. Please believe us when we say we’ve gone through every possible option. Could we invest more in revamping the sites? Could we spin them off into their own or another entity? Could we leave them as is and slowly see them degrade further? The answer was “no” to all of these. We just cannot find a way that is honorable to the community, true to the business, and in good conscience.

I know many of you will be upset. I know many of you will think this is the wrong call. We’re truly sorry for that. Sometimes putting something you love to rest, while difficult, is the right thing to do. That is what we must do now with the community areas of our sites. Thank you for being the best community ever.

John Vars

Co-founder, Dogster and Catster

VP of Product, Say Media

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